The Critical Threats Project releases a weekly update and assessment on the al Qaeda network.
- Al Qaeda’s senior leadership seeks to shape the Syrian battlefield by broadening the scope of the conflict. Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri admonished fighters in Syria to avoid nationalism and prepare for a protracted guerrilla war supported by the entire Sunni community. The “Imam Shamil Battalion,” likely a Central Asian group, claimed that Zawahiri ordered it to conduct the April 3 metro bombing in St. Petersburg, Russia, signaling that al Qaeda leadership may seek to shape Russia’s posture in Syria with external attacks. [Read the Institute for the Study of War-CTP recommendation “America’s Way Ahead in Syria”]
- Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar’s military expansion may undermine hopes for political reconciliation in Libya. A LNA-aligned political body signaled that it may be willing to participate in the UN-brokered political process and end a boycott of more than a year. Haftar’s forces are preparing to attack a base held by militias aligned with the UN-backed government, however. Haftar’s pursuit of a military solution may interrupt the long-awaited political dialogue. [Read “Ignoring History: America’s Losing Strategy in Libya”]
- Al Shabaab seeks to gain popular support by establishing itself as a humanitarian aid provider in rural Somalia. The group ambushed two convoys carrying Emirati Red Crescent and World Food Programme personnel near Mogadishu in April in an effort to deter international aid. Al Shabaab simultaneously facilitates aid delivery to vulnerable populations in southern and central Somalia. Al Shabaab aims to exploit Somalia’s catastrophic drought and famine conditions to challenge the authority of the Somali Federal Government, which will struggle to respond to the population’s needs. [For a map of al Shabaab’s humanitarian operations, see “Al Shabaab’s Humanitarian Response”]